Some years ago, I came up with a set of personal rules for whenever I go to the movie theater. These rules included everything from when I arrived, where I sat in the theater to bathroom break etiquette. As I've gotten older, a lot of these rules have changed and evolved, especially with IMAX theaters changing the game in 2006.
My #1 rule has never changed, though:
"Never, ever listen to the critics. Ever."
Now, immediately when I say that, someone is going to call BS on it because the argument could be made that if I didn't listen to critics at all, then I would watch every movie that was ever released, even the bad ones. First of all, if you talk to some of the people who know me, there is a belief that I do that already. It's why people have flat out refused to play movie trivia games with me on several occasions.
Second, even if I don't watch every movie, which I don't, that has nothing to do with the critics. There are movies that interest me and ones that don't interest me at all. I'm not going to go see The Darkness because it has a 5% Rotten Tomatoes rating. I'm not going to see it because I have zero interest in seeing it, regardless of the rating. Conversely, when Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice opened with a 37% rating on RT before it was even released, I still saw it. The same goes for X-Men Apocalypse which had a 47% RT rating before seeing it on a Thursday night advance showing.
No, if I don't see a movie it's purely because I'm not interested in paying money to go see it. At no point was that decision based on, or influenced by a critic's review. I made the choice myself based on what I like to see at the theater and the kinds of movies I watch in general, which is something that I wish more people did, or at least I wish I was more confident that people did it because it feels like RT and Metacritic and any other review aggregators like that are becoming the basis on whether or not people go to see certain movies.
The first thing I hear from someone that doesn't want to go see a movie that I want to see is that it got bad reviews, or somebody hated it. Based on that opinion from a random person that neither one of us knows personally, you're going to decide not to see the movie because you don't want to waste your money. Is that really because of the bad review, or because you didn't really want to see it in the first place?
What if it's your friend that says he or she hated it? Are you guys twins? Do you share the same lives, thoughts, dreams and feelings all the time? Enough to know that what they like and don't like is exactly the same as you? If so, then I pity you because your life is boring as hell. Being different and unique is one of the best traits of humanity that could possibly exist.
Without going any deeper into the human condition on this, the bottom line is that there are several reasons that a movie critic can't be trusted for their review on a movie, and NO, one of those reasons is NOT paid conspiracy. While it is completely possible that some critics are bought and paid for by studios to give great reviews for their movies and terrible reviews for the competition, especially when you consider the level of politicking and bribery that occurs within awards shows, that's not what we are talking about here. There's plenty of reasons we shouldn't trust a professional critical review of a movie before going down that rabbit hole.
Here are just a few things to consider about movie critics and the review aggregators before you dismiss what I'm saying as sour grapes:
1 - PROFESSIONAL CRITICS ARE INDEED PAID BY SOMEONE.
The movie studios may not be paying professional movie critics, but somebody is, whether it's an actual publication or a website. Professional critics are paid for their opinion on these movies and therefore what they write is valued and determined by the amount of hits or attention they receive. This automatically disqualifies that review for me because on some level, it was written to get attention and become clickbait. You can see it too when you read some of the inflammatory language they use just to get people going:
Now maybe these critics are just complete jackasses in general and they always talk like this about things they don't like, but you're not just using this kind of language and insults just because you feel like it. They want people to read it and get emotional one way or the other, either to reinforce how much they don't like something and won't see it, or to get them angry about how ridiculous their opinion is. Either way, we're reading it and they get the clicks and that's all they care about. How can we trust that their opinion is genuine and not some overly-opinionated rag just to get attention? We can't.
2 - ROTTEN TOMATOES IS A TERRIBLE JUDGE OF CRITICAL OPINION
How many times have you seen a movie and said the following:
"It was meh."
"I didn't like it, but I didn't hate it either."
"It was decent."
"It was okay."
Rotten Tomatoes officially doesn't believe that any of those reviews are possible because there is no middle ground for a review. From the RT site itself:
Ok, so what determines a review to be good or bad? Why is it just good or bad? Why isn't there a "meh" or a "so-so" or an "okay" rating? Metacritic has one:
See, at least Metacritic takes the critics review as an average instead of giving it a pass/fail, fresh/rotten grade. That at least takes mixed reviews into account. The problem of course with that goes back to the first reason about critics writing for clickbait and how that skews the whole opinion process to begin with, but at least Metacritic doesn't do it based on pass/fail.
The thing of it is, how often do you see Metacritic cited when talking about a movie's critical success or failure? We don't. Instead, we see this:
And sure enough, this is what RT currently has listed for ratings on X-Men Apocalypse:
And this is what Metacritic says about it:
So how many of those 28 mixed reviews on Metacritic got counted as rotten on RT? How many of them were counted fresh? We have no idea.
More importantly, did you notice the audience and user scores on both sites? 74% fresh on RT and 7.3 out of 10 on Metacritic. So the critics are at best divided on it, but the audience seems to like it. I wonder where we have seen that before:
3 - YOUR OWN OPINION IS ALL THAT COUNTS
This is ultimately the reason that you should never listen to critics about movie reviews because at the end of the day, they are not you and you are not them. What they think and how they feel are going to be completely different than you most of the time, even if you agree with them on certain movies and in certain cases. There's no such thing as an objective review about anything, especially movies. We are all opinionated about them for different reasons. If you love Marvel but you never liked DC, that's going to affect your review of a DCEU movie as opposed to an MCU movie. If you hate FOX but love Disney, that's going to affect it too. If you're a huge fan of Bryan Singer because of The Usual Suspects but you hate Zack Snyder because of Sucker Punch, that's going to affect your review whether you like it or not. Those are not bad things, by the way, they are just your opinions and that could be a basis for what you think, but that's all the more reason you shouldn't put a ton of stock into a critic that doesn't think or feel the same way you do, or even if they agree with you, still isn't you.
I'm not immune to this either, you know. My deep appreciation for DC Comics and Batman is part of the reason I largely enjoyed Dawn of Justice. That doesn't mean I don't see where people didn't like it. The same goes for Civil War in the sense that I understand why most people like it and there are some that don't. Nobody is right or wrong here, we just all have our own opinions and at the end of the day, that's all we should be listening to: our OWN opinions.
So the next time a movie that you really want to see comes out and doesn't get the reviews you were hoping for, never mind that if you really want to see it. Are you really going to let a bunch of people you don't know that get paid to provide an entertaining opinion, tell you how to spend your money? I don't and I won't. Period.